I remember I first heard of WhatsApp from some of my friends back in 2011-12.
I admit, my first impression was that the idea was neat, and I recall I had read an article that it could potentially put out the entire SMS business to rest (turns out it did) but since I did not own a smartphone then, I did not try it out.
Later WhatsApp grabbed a strong foothold. My not-so-tech-savvy mom was on WhatsApp, so I was sure it had. But as the number of people around me who used WhatsApp grew, my tendency to try it out reduced because the thing I was worried about was the constantly reducing signal to noise ratio. The primary purpose was of instant messaging apps is information exchange, but the huge influx of messages and information (mostly useless) ending up in lots of noise and not meaningful exchanges.
This overload bothers me. I prefer to simply call or text people rather than sending them a message on WhatsApp.
Its almost based on the law of diminishing marginal utility. Simply put, if you have to much of something, you will value it less. That is what information and exchanges on WhatsApp have turned into.
The same case applies to Facebook as well.
And as if to prove my point, I came across this article on the day I wrote this post.
You lost your rights to privacy years ago, get over it.
The day you created your first email address, or posted that first picture to Instagram, or created your Facebook profile, or bought that first item on Amazon, that was it. Hasta La Vista, data.But your life is not your own anymore. Everything around you conspires to send information about you to someone else.
But personally, I am really not bothered by the privacy concerns as much as the signal to noise ratio. For me avoiding IM has worked till now, I hope it does for long. Also, as the article puts it pretty well, there’s no point trying to stop the data collection from your personal space, the idea should be to focus on the regulation in the times ahead of us. “This is no longer a creepy, Orwellian future. It’s the norm.”
The article also speaks about an Open Data model, where every individual has control over the data they produce. (Utopia? There’s a long wait before we can be sure)
We need access to everything we generate. On our terms. And we need the means to open that data to whomever we choose, on our terms.
If I generate health information via wearable devices I want my doctor to be able to access this, I want my life insurance company to access this. I don’t want it to be simply contained within a proprietary app and the only information I get back are the bar charts dreamed up by the creators.
There has to be a meaningful connection to the data we generate and we have to shape what it looks like. Companies talk of ROI - Return On Investment – so what is our intrinsic ROI on the data we create ?
I’ll wind up with the adage the Internet has taught us, “If the service is free, you are the product.”
I don’t want this to be true, but it seems I don’t have a choice here, do I?
UPDATE: I have started using WhatsApp for work. Most people at office use WhatsApp for communication, specially the top-down channel. Being at the bottom end of the chain means you have to compromise your stand on social media and intrusion into your private space. Sad :(